PURIM Unmasked

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By: Ellen Geller Kamaras

Technology has made it way too easy for us to articulate our feelings, especially negative ones, instantaneously and publicly.  The result?  Lots of careless and toxic exchanges with no filters, a lot of anger, elevated emotions, and resulting heartache.  These communications can harm our relationships and cause them to deteriorate and unravel.

One of the biggest culprits is texting, followed by email, and posting on social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. 

Text bullying, similar to cyberbullying, has become a serious issue with middle school and high school age children and can cause dire consequences. 

Do you want to improve all your relationships, personal and business?  Try counting to 10 before you hit send, tweet, share, or post. 

Technology is not all bad.  As a baby boomer, I consider it almost magical to FaceTime, have zoom video conferences, and shop via cell phones.  Doctors can view medical test results in real time and perform life-saving surgeries and organ transplants thanks to research, robotics, and technological advances.

Who doesn’t enjoy texting her husband or friend to pick up groceries or a prescription, or sharing contact info seamlessly?

What concerns me is when texting totally replaces talking to a person on the phone or face to face. Can you really have an authentic dialogue via text?  And what does it mean when someone doesn’t respond to your text?

And what about email?  Our Inbox’s have become so cumbersome that we miss the important notices. 

Studies have revealed the positive and negative impacts of social media. Let’s first highlight the major pros and cons then look at some tools to improve our communication and relationships in today’s high-tech environment.

Benefits of Connection, Communication, and Accessibility

Hands-down, technology facilitates staying connected with family, friends, colleagues, and childhood classmates.  Homebound individuals can reach out and feel less isolated.  Social media platforms such as LinkedIn help people find jobs.  Non-profit organizations and individuals can raise money for vital causes and new businesses (“crowdsourcing”).


However, there are many drawbacks as well. Social media can be a huge time drain and distraction. How many times have you seen people eating out at a restaurant glued to their phones? 

Has someone bumped into you on the street when he or she was looking at their phone?  This morning I almost collided with someone as I headed to the subway. Two women stopped right in front of me to check their phones. One was walking her dog and the other abruptly paused.  I also worry when I see nannies and young parents on their phones while they are pushing baby carriages and crossing the street.

According to the DMV, texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving.  One out of every four car accidents in the U.S. is caused by texting while driving.

How often do you check your email, texts, and news feeds on your smart phone?  I admit that I do it countless times.  I so welcome shutting down my iPhone and MAC for Shabbat, and so appreciate not hearing those pings for 25 hours. 

The psychological and physiological benefits of unplugging and disconnecting from technology and social media have been well documented.  Unplugging can improve our quality of life, helps us sleep better, gives us time to pause and recharge, and allows us to smell roses.  Most importantly, it creates the space for us to be aware, mindful, and intentional.  Are we spending time on meaningful tasks or activities or are we on automatic?

Being attached to one’s phone, computer, or video games also reduces our time outdoors.  Being outdoors improves our physical and mental health. 

Miscommunication, Anxiety, and Overload

Technology is swift and effective, but it’s very easy to misunderstand a text or email, and these conduits can hinder communication.  We can’t hear the person’s tone in a text or email or see their body language, which are elements that improve understanding and connection. iPhone auto corrections can make things even worse.

And what about that text that wasn’t meant for you?  We have all been there and done that.

Did you know that texting can cause anxiety?  Vague texts or those that are viewed as negative (even a simple text of “let’s talk”) can trigger anxiety.  Anxiety comes from not being able to hear the sender’s tone or see his expression or body language. People also experience anxiety when they can’t use their phones or access Wi-Fi.  Do you remember the 2011 global Blackberry outages that caused tremendous anxiety for Blackberry users?

There is also the “compare-and-despair” factor. People with FOMO (fear of missing out) check their social media feeds constantly.  They may see posts and pictures of events they were not invited to or may be saddened that they can’t afford the type of vacations their friends take.  Or feel sad that they have not found their soulmates or don’t have children or grandchildren.

Our brains also need a break from social media and technology.  Computer science researchers report that our short-term memory can only hold three to four items, and we become overwhelmed browsing social media.

Tools and Practices

Are you 100 percent certain that you want to send that text?

Try counting to 10 before you send that text, email, or post.  Counting means waiting, pausing, and thinking about what you really want to say, and being mindful and intentional rather than reactive or angry.   

The ability to manage one’s emotions is a key aspect of emotional intelligence (EQ). Studies show that EQ is more important than IQ in determining success in one’s career and personal relationships.  People with a high EQ respond rather than react, pause to gather their thoughts, have a high level of self-awareness and self-control, see both sides of a situation and the whole picture, set limits and boundaries, and use filters. 

If you’re having a negative conversation or a full-blown argument with someone over text, take a moment, breathe, count to ten, and then see if you still want to send that text. Yes, that one, with a lot of unnecessary capitalization and too many exclamation points and typos!  Avoid getting into a he said/she said situation.

The same goes for social media. You can always tweet or post later, once your emotions cool down and your heart has stopped racing.

To avoid a negative text or email exchange, consider drafting an email but not sending it.  When you review the email the next day, you may realize that what happened is no longer important or worth endangering your relationship for.

Think of this clever acronym when speaking to children, family members, friends and colleagues, and in all your daily encounters:  W.A.I.T. - “why am I talking?" It’s relevant for texting, emailing and social media posts too! It encourages us to listen to the other person, be present, and be empathetic.

Consider picking up the phone and talking instead of texting or emailing.

If your time is limited, state that upfront.  That communication is an example of expressing a boundary or limit. 

Slowly reduce the time you spend on your phone, and checking your texts, email, and social media feeds.  Can you shut your phone for 30 minutes twice a day when you aren’t expecting an important call or notification?  Notice how you feel when you unplug. After some initial withdrawal anxiety, you may enjoy it!

Let’s educate our children about the harmful consequences of inappropriate texting and posting on social media platforms.  As parents it is our responsibility to provide guidelines to our children, and encourage them to think before they quickly send off a text or post on Instagram.  Encourage your children to communicate and converse and to put their phones down.  Model those behaviors for them.

And let’s not forget that for Jews, there are also halachic ramifications to negative texting and posting relating to lashon hara, lack of tsniut, and practicing mitzvot ben adam le chaveiro.

5 Reasons to Count to 10 Before You Hit Send

1.      Once you put it in writing, you can’t take it back. Are you willing to live with the consequences?

2.      Is your response triggered by elevated emotions? Were you feeling down, irritated or stressed when you received that negative text or email? Why not respond when you are feeling more positive and calmer?

3.      Do you know the whole story? Can you give the other person the benefit of the doubt? Or pick up the phone and ask to talk about it. People often reach the wrong conclusions when they quickly read a text.

4.      Remember Loose lips Sink Slips or its modern counterpart Loose Tweets Sink Fleets. It originated in World War II and warned against speaking of ship movements, which might be heard by enemy agents and lead to the bombing of U.S. submarines. It sent a message to U.S. citizens and the military to refrain from careless talk. Walk on the side of caution with your written words.

5.      Anger management experts say that counting to 10 provides time and distraction to help you manage your emotions, including anger. When angry, count to 10 before you speak. If very angry, count to 100.

Ellen Geller Kamaras, CPA/MBA, is an International Coach Federation (ICF) Associate Certified Coach.  Her specialties include life, career, and dating coaching.  Ellen helps people find their passion, purpose, and positivity in life and relationships. Ellen can be contacted at ellen@lifecoachellen.com(www.lifecoachellen.com).